• Layoffs, shelter proposal amendment explained

  • Many questions were answered, while just as many – if not more – were asked.

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  • Many questions were answered, while just as many – if not more – were asked.
    Over the course of several hours Monday night, Independence City Council members had at least a dozen questions answered regarding the future of the new regional animal shelter and an amendment to an agreement that the city and Jackson County first approved in 2009.
    Council members are set to consider the second reading and potential vote on that amendment next Monday. While City Manager Robert Heacock provided answers to many questions posed to him in the days since the amendment was brought forth, council members still have questions, and at least one council member said he isn’t ready to vote on the issue until he sees more concrete data.
    Heacock answered the following questions Monday night, which the council had previously submitted to him.
    Less than two weeks ago, 10 part-time Independence Animal Shelter employees were notified that they would likely lose their jobs when the county assumes responsibility for operations of the new regional shelter. While those employees were given at least a 30-day notice, the City Council still has to vote on the proposed amendment to the original 2009 agreement, which would turn over operations of the new shelter to the county.
    Heacock said those part-time staff members consist of three employees who’ve been with the city anywhere from one to three years, while the remaining seven individuals were hired this summer or fall.
    “If we were going to be required to step up on short notice to operate the facility, we had to go ahead and fill some of those part-time positions so that we would be able to step in,” Heacock said.
    City staff have spoken with Jackson County officials and Great Plains SPCA (the nonprofit organization slated to operate the shelter, under an agreement with Jackson County and separate from the amendment between the city and Jackson County that still needs the vote of the City Council) regarding potential employment opportunities with staff who are losing their jobs.
    “Their desire would be to hire as many of those individuals as possible,” Heacock said, adding that he has visited with the city’s human resources department about other potential part-time opportunities for those 10 employees. “...I’m hopeful that at the end of the day we can do right by all the employees that we had. I don’t minimize anybody, especially in this economy and day and age – every position is important, whether it’s full-time or part-time.
    “We’re going to do everything we can to work to help those individuals that have been working for the city, regardless of whether they’ve been working for three months or three years.”
    Page 2 of 2 - Some council members questioned why an amendment was being considered instead of upholding the original 2009 agreement or drafting a new agreement altogether. In short, Heacock said, it maintains the “benefit of the original agreement, but it meets the county’s desire to use a third-party operator.”
    “As city manager,” he said, “I’m comfortable under either option. I have indicated to the county that I thought this proposal was of a sufficient clarity and that I could recommend it to the council – and I have – but I think we would have done an excellent job, if given the opportunity to operate the facility under the (2009) agreement.”
    Council members noted that many constituents have contacted them recently with questions and concerns over the new shelter and its operations.
    Citizens who filled the council chambers Monday night included Animal Shelter and Animal Services staff, local veterinarians and members of the city’s Advisory Board of Health.
    The study session didn’t include a public hearing. Those wishing to speak before the council considers the amendment for a vote next Monday should sign up with the City Clerk’s office before noon Friday. Call 816-325-7010 for more information.

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